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Spence An Underdog For First Time Ahead Of Crawford Fight

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Terence “Bud” Crawford is known for his ability to make adjustments. He’ll often start fights slowly, boxing out of the orthodox stance, frequently falling behind in early rounds before figuring out how to exploit his opponent’s weaknesses, switching to southpaw, and taking control of the pace, the distance, and, ultimately, the outcome.

Fittingly, the betting odds for Crawford’s welterweight championship fight against Errol Spence Jr. on Saturday have been making their own gradual adjustments in Bud’s favor.

In April, shortly before this long-anticipated fight was signed, it was dead even at FanDuel Sportsbook — a bet on Crawford was priced at -112, and a bet on Spence was priced identically. Caesars, the only other major sportsbook posting odds prior to the contracts getting signed, had the bout nearly the same, at -120 for Crawford and +100 for Spence.

But as the Showtime Pay-Per-View bout at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas draws near, the bookmakers are no longer presenting it as a coin flip. The most bettor-friendly price available on Crawford as of Tuesday morning was FanDuel’s -146, with his moneyline stretching at high as -190 at BetMGM.

Spence, meanwhile, could be found at a range from +116 to +138. He’s not a big underdog. But he is the underdog now. And that’s a position he’s never been in before heading into a professional fight.

It’s not the size of the ‘dog in the fight …

The closest that 2012 U.S. Olympian Spence has been to underdog status in his first 28 pro bouts — all of them victories, 22 coming by knockout — came six years ago when he stepped up in class to face Kell Brook in Sheffield, England, and opened as only a -130 favorite. By opening bell, Spence was -220. He delivered for those who wagered on him with a hard-earned 11th-round KO win.

So this is an unfamiliar position “The Truth” finds himself in as he and Crawford battle for not only the welterweight title but also, possibly, the unofficial title of boxing’s pound-for-pound king. On the latest list compiled by ESPN, Crawford is No. 1 and southpaw Spence No. 4, making this the first time two boxers so highly rated have gone head-to-head since Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin’s first two contests in 2017 and 2018.

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Crawford, for his part, has only been an underdog as a pro once — maybe. When he emerged from relative obscurity as a late substitute facing Breidis Prescott on HBO in 2013, post-fight articles referred to Crawford’s dominant decision win as an “upset,” although Sports Handle’s efforts to find actual prefight odds from that match came up empty.

Now a three-division titleholder with a record of 39-0 (30 KOs) after 15 years in the pro ranks, Crawford stands the closest he’s been to the underdog role in a decade.

That offers a sense of the quality of the bout. These are two men who are always favored, but now only one of them can be — and the margin on the odds board is extremely slim by boxing’s standards.

Markets beyond the moneyline

There are countless ways to bet the fight besides just picking one competitor to win straight-up. One common avenue to explore is “method of victory,” a five-way market.

The options are Crawford by decision or technical decision, Crawford by KO/TKO/DQ, Spence by decision or technical decision, Spence by KO/TKO/DQ, and draw. Here’s a look at how the prices compare in those five markets at five major mobile sportsbooks (we left out BetMGM because it lumps technical decisions into the KO/TKO/DQ category, skewing the pricing): 

Clearly, the fight going to the scorecards is considered more likely than someone scoring a stoppage. FanDuel has some outlier pricing on those KOs and is by far the preferred book at which to bet either man to finish the job. FanDuel also offers the highest payout on a draw (which is certainly a realistic possibility with boxers this competitively matched on paper).

For a decision finish, however, FanDuel is the worst place to make a wager. Rather, bet365 is the book to use for either Spence on points or Crawford on points.

The best price on the fight to go the full distance is -188 at bet365, while the “won’t go” pays +165 at Caesars. Most books set the over/under at 10.5 rounds, with -250 juice on the over at bet365 and +200 on the under at both Caesars and FanDuel.

For some more creative props, bettors can consider such wagers as:

  • Crawford by KO in rounds 7-12 at +500 at FanDuel, or Spence by KO in rounds 7-12 at +1000 at BetRivers and other Kambi-affiliated books.
  • Either/or markets at DraftKings of Crawford KO 7-12 or Crawford by decision at -120, and Spence KO 7-12 or Spence by decision at +145.
  • Crawford by majority decision at +1600 or Spence by majority decision at +1800, both at BetMGM, or the fight to end in a majority decision going either way at +750 at DraftKings (split decision pays +380).
  • A knockdown scored sometime in the first four rounds at +1600 at FanDuel.

Then there’s the absolute most ill-advised bet/sweat in the boxing betting business, a DraftKings price of -4000 on under 1.5 knockdowns in the bout. Sure, neither Spence nor Crawford has ever been officially dropped, so it’s reasonable to predict that the under hits. But -4000? You’re going to risk $400 to win $10 and experience momentary heart failure every time anyone throws a punch? We’d recommend betting on Francis Ngannou to beat Tyson Fury before we’d recommend that one.

There’s one other approach to betting Spence-Crawford that isn’t available on any odds board yet. If you’re a Bud Crawford believer and you didn’t get in when he was attractively priced at -112, you can wait and hope for the right opportunity to live-bet him. Crawford frequently falls behind early. If he lets Spence get out to, say, a 3-1 lead in rounds, perhaps Crawford will shift to plus-money because the algorithms don’t understand that a slow start is part of the deal with the switch-hitter from Omaha.

If you’ve been dying for an opportunity to bet Crawford as an underdog for once, that opportunity may come a few rounds in on Saturday night, so keep those apps open.

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